Hello! My name is Alex Altman, of Alex Altman Therapy LLC. I’m a psychotherapist in private practice, and I specialize in working with adolescents and adults struggling with body image concerns, disordered eating and anxiety. I’m thrilled to be guest-blogging here today about how to improve you body image! Please visit my website for more information on my practice (as well as resources that may be helpful if you are, or someone you know is, struggling with an eating disorder or body image concerns). You can also check me out on Instagram @alexaltmantherapy. Thanks for reading!
Here are 5 tips if you are struggling to improve your body image. Plus you can increase self-compassion along the way!
1) Bring awareness to what your body image is looking like these days.
What is it like to walk through life in your body right now? Has that changed over time? How do you notice yourself thinking about, talking to, and talking about your body?
This is a great prompt for a journaling session, or a therapy session, by the way!
Sometimes, we don’t notice how critical we can be about our bodies until we begin developing this awareness. And we need to know what we are working with before we can begin making any changes to it.
Exploring our own ‘body stories’—the way we describe and relate to ourselves and our bodies over time—can be powerful healing work in terms of letting go of body-based shame.
2) Challenge those self-critical thoughts and statements.
You can do this in your head, or on paper. When you catch yourself thinking or saying something negative or critical about your body, notice that. Then offer yourself a kinder, gentler statement to follow-up.
For example: ‘I’m working on being kinder to myself—these thighs do a lot for me, and I’m grateful for them, even if I don’t always like how they look’.
If this practice feels hard to you, imagine what you might say to a loved one—your child, or a good friend—or imagine speaking to yourself at a younger age. What would you have wanted to hear from someone loving and kind about your body? Say that to yourself now.
3) Dress in clothing that fits and feels good now.
It’s your clothes’ job to fit you, not your body’s job to fit them!
If you’re holding on to clothing in smaller sizes, consider donating them to someone who can use them. This can be an emotional step—and a powerful one in accepting your body as it is right now and teaching yourself you deserve comfort in that current body.
If you’re struggling to find clothing in your current size, you might check out some new companies:
- ASOS Curve
- Good American
- Superfit Hero
- Curvaceous Boutique (support a Black-owned business!)
- All Worthy
- SwimSuits for All
Or try out a thrift store near you (safely, of course). There are more options now than ever before.
4) Engage in some joyful movement—IF that feels safe and right to you.
So many of us have approached exercise from an ‘I need to punish my body’ frame of mind. Whether or not we were aware of it. So it makes sense we might have a complicated relationship with exercise because of this! Tune in to what truly feels good to your unique body.
Is it yoga? Dance? Stretching? Taking a walk? ‘Joyful movement’ is exactly that—if you’ve found it, you will notice yourself smiling, sighing in relief, even laughing when you do it.
It isn’t about calories burned, or how many steps you take—it’s about doing something for your body simply because you enjoy it. It’s about honoring the body you have right now, even if you don’t particularly like it, and connecting with it in a way that prioritizes your wellbeing.
And if you dream of having this relationship to movement, but you’re not there yet—that’s perfectly okay. You may need to experiment more. Or you may need more time or more support before you find what feels right for you—but you can get there!
5) Pay attention to your social media feeds.
Do the accounts you follow make you feel better or worse about yourself and your body? If it’s worse, maybe it’s time to consider deleting them. Then replace them with accounts that make you feel better about yourself. Look for messages and voices that encourage self-compassion and body acceptance anywhere you can find them.
You can find new accounts by searching for hashtags like #selfcompassion, #selfcare, #bodypositivity, #healthateverysize
This can be a great way to control some of the messages you absorb each day about your body and what it ‘should’ look like, what it ‘should’ be doing. Forget the ‘shoulds’—you are worthy in whatever body you’re in.
When You May Need More Support…
You may find yourself struggling with disordered eating and poor body image, and these concerns are taking a real toll on your wellbeing. For example, you may find yourself worrying about these issues for hours each day. Or you avoid social situations because of your anxiety around food and exercise. Or you feel fed up with constantly dieting.
If these apply, it could be time to reach out for some help. You are NOT a failure for struggling with these things—eating disorders affect all kinds of people in all kinds of bodies.
And they are HARD to deal with on your own.
You deserve to live a life that’s full, balanced, vibrant and fulfilling—just as you are, even if you can’t believe that just yet. If you could use some support, please reach out today to set up a free initial phone consultation with me. Let’s connect soon!
About The Author
Alex Altman (she/her/hers) is a clinical social worker and psychotherapist, licensed in DC and Maryland. Alex’s professional experience includes hospital and school social work, foster care and adoption social work, and college counseling social work and case management. She recently launched her private practice, Alex Altman Therapy LLC, which specializes in treating anxiety, perfectionism, disordered eating and negative body image (working from a Health at Every Size framework), as well as adoption and family-of-origin-related concerns. She works with adults and adolescents, offering individual therapy. Alex takes an integrative approach to her work with clients, pulling from different modalities depending on their needs and desires, and works relationally, believing that therapy can offer a healing and corrective emotional experience. She lives in Bethesda with her fiancé and their rescue cat.